Click, Clack, Killian.

For me, there’s always something supremely comforting about listening to Car Talk. I don’t always remember to tune in (Saturday mornings at 9 here on WHA), but when I do I always find myself grinning like a madman, reveling in the unfettered glee and unmistakable voices of Tom and Ray. It takes me back to Boston, and to the times when I lived around people who took things apart and built things, and all of the hard work and good, dirty-knuckled fun that went along with it. It reminds me of the amazing commencement address the brothers gave at MIT back in 1999 — I had just finished my freshman year, and watched the webcast from my brand-new summer job for the MIT Webmasters (now Web Communications Services, then known as CWIS, Campus Wide Information Systems, and, in my opinion, much better back in those days) in the basement of N42. I knew as I listened that there wouldn’t be a commencement speech this good for the next several decades, and was terrifically sad that I wasn’t graduating right then so that I could receive their message firsthand, on what I remember was a beautiful June day. (I was, recall, stuck in the basement of N42.)
Our commencement speaker turned out to be James Wolfensohn of the World Bank; there were protesters (a handful, because of the weather), and riot cops (a ton, because they were being paid to turn out); and it rained, and was about sixty degrees. I had a great time in my own way, though, because of course the weather would be crappy, of course we would have to suffer to get our diplomas in hand, and of course there would be hundreds of girls who had looked out their windows that morning and decided that it was still a good idea to wear that little white dress (soon stained by the sopping-wet non-colorfast black gown covering it) and strappy high heels (doing a better job of aerating the lawn of Killian Court than of supporting their person). Of course there would be people leaving as soon as they got their diplomas, and of course I would be among the last people to walk across the stage, degree-granting proceeding alphabetically by school (Architecture; Engineering; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; Management; Science) and then in numerical order of Course within each school. (The effect: the only department that followed mine was Math.) By the time I returned to my seat, at least half of the students and spectators had gone. Those of us who were left were wet and grinning maniacally, and figured we might as well stick it out to the end.
As soon as the last statements were made (and this, let me tell you, was amazing and miraculous — not the statements, but what followed), the rain let up, the skies cleared, the sun came out, and it was the most perfect June day I had ever seen. I exchanged hugs with what friends of mine remained (fortunately there were several of my closest in neighboring Course VIII), and we found our families and tromped through the muck to the athletic fields for refreshments. By then, it really was gorgeous out; we were beginning to dry off; and we were finally able to take our diplomas out of their plastic bags (handed to us immediately after the diploma itself in a positively staggering logistical coup — the whole ceremony is like that, you understand: how they get 10,000 degrees to the right people in the right order like clockwork, and are also able to have bottles of water and ponchos and seat-drying towels for every guest as well as plastic bags for every diploma is really quite astonishing, and makes you believe that there really is something after all to having this MIT degree — it just works) and look at them, and smile to ourselves and to one another.
In the end, I think, it really was a perfect day.


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